The Illinois Motor Vehicle Data Linkage (MVDL) Project

Funded by a grant from the Illinois Department of Public Health in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Transportation, the overall goal of this project is to link state health and transportation data to support local, regional, and statewide highway safety decision-making to affect decreases in deaths, non-fatal injuries, and health care costs resulting from motor vehicle crashes, which will help make Illinois roads safer. The primary function of the data analyst will be to collect, clean, merge together, and update the primary database that forms the basis of this project. The data analyst will work with the other members of the UIS research team, IDPH, and IDOT to identify key research questions of interest to policymakers that the data can help to answer.

Research Studies

Polysubstance Use and Motor Vehicle Crashes in Illinois: An Exploration of Linked Crash and Hospital Data

This manuscript provides a high-level view of the state of substance use among those involved in a motor vehicle crash on Illinois roadways. The presentation of statistical analyses emphasizes the direction and proportionality of the presence of intoxicating substances in a road user involved in a crash. By several measures the presence of any substance is related to increased risky behavior (decreased seat belt and helmet use, aggressive driving), more severe injuries, and higher hospital charges. Additional substances (polysubstance use) intensify the relationship as the substance count increases.

Having access to crash data provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation and hospital discharge data provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Motor Vehicle Data Linkage (MVDL) team at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) is uniquely positioned to investigate polysubstance use and motor vehicle crashes in Illinois.

Effects of COVID and Spatial Demography on the Reporting of Cyclists Struck by a Motor Vehicle

The equitable distribution of resources intended to mitigate the damage caused to communities when a cyclist is struck by a motor vehicle depends upon an accurate accounting of incidents. The need for accurate accounting applies not only to the total number of incidents but upon whom the burden disproportionately befalls. By relying on crash data alone, policymakers may make allocation decisions using incomplete information. As a result, those communities most in need of resources to protect vulnerable road users may be missing out because of higher rates of unreported struck cyclists. By relying on police crash reports alone by officials, unreported struck cyclists may remain officially unseen.

Having access to crash data provided by the Illinois Department of Transportation and hospital discharge data provided by the Illinois Department of Public Health, the Motor Vehicle Data Linkage (MVDL) team at the University of Illinois Springfield (UIS) is uniquely positioned to investigate the burden of unreported cyclist crashes. This paper seeks to overcome prior data obstacles to investigate the incidence of unreported struck cyclists by first linking crash and hospital data files, and then by examining those incidents in the hospital file for which no corresponding report can be found.

Risky Roadway Behavior during the COVID-19 Pandemic of 2020

The correlation between injury, death, vehicle speed, and traffic volume during the 2020 COVID-19 pandemic has received some much needed attention by researchers (Lee et al., 2020; Liao and Lowry, 2021; Stiles et al., 2021). Yet much remains to be learned regarding the rise in traffic violence and death on our roadways during the COVID-19 pandemic. This exploratory paper aims to build on that research and those cited below by investigating the prevalence of roadway behavior more broadly classified as risky. We use five years of linked crash and hospital data provided by the Illinois Departments of Transportation and Public Health from 2016 through 2020. Through the presentation of descriptive statistics we compare occurrences of risky behavior in the four preceding years to occurrences in 2020. Our purpose is to better understand the circumstances and contributing factors of linked crashes so they may be mitigated through action resulting in the prevention of injury and death.

Pediatric restraint use and injury across race, ethnicity, and class in Illinois

A leading cause of child deaths in America are motor vehicle crashes. For children 12 years and younger the proper use of a child restraint could make the difference between moderate and severe injury, and even death. Through uncommon access to both crash and hospital records, this manuscript investigates the circumstantial and socioeconomic characteristics associated with a child being properly restrained at the time of a motor vehicle crash. Zip code level data of the childhood crash victims are also aggregated and studied to learn of the community factors related to restraint use. Results suggest that 10.5% of children during the study period were either not restrained at all or improperly restrained at the time of the crash. Properly restrained children were between 10 and 20 times less likely to die compared to unrestrained or improperly restrained children. Black children were some nine percentage points, and Hispanic children were almost six percentage points, less likely to be properly restrained compared to White children. Children of all races covered by Medicaid were also nearly seven percentage points less likely to be properly restrained compared to others. Unrestrained children suffered worse injuries that resulted in higher hospital charges and Medicaid bills compared to restrained children. Children residing in zip codes with relatively high rates of poverty and carlessness are especially overrepresented as not being properly restrained. A binary logistic model estimates that children aged four through eight are also significantly less likely to be properly restrained. Recommendations are made for targeted interventions and for regulatory changes to ensure greater pediatric restraint compliance.

Effects of Large Vehicles on Pedestrian & Cyclist Injury Severity

Fatal pedestrian and pedal-cyclist crashes have been on the rise in the U.S. since 2009. This rise in fatalities coincides with the rise of large vehicles on American roadways, continuing a trend that began years earlier. Through rare access to both crash and hospital records, this report investigates the relationship between striking vehicle type and medical outcomes of pedestrian and pedalcyclist cases. Results suggest that children are eight times more likely to die when struck by a SUV compared to those struck by a passenger car. Passenger cars were the striking vehicle in most fatal pedestrian and pedal-cyclist crashes, though they were underrepresented relative to the proportion of all crashes in which they were involved. Though pickup trucks were the striking vehicle in just 5.6% of pedestrian and pedal-cyclist crashes, they were involved in 12.6% of fatalities. SUVs were similarly overrepresented in fatalities relative to the proportion of their involvement in all crashes.
SUVs struck 14.7% of the pedestrians and pedal-cyclists investigated here, but were involved in 25.4% of the fatalities. Head and thorax injury severities are examined by vehicle type and age. Hospital charges of pedestrian and pedal-cycle crash victims are also analyzed by striking vehicle type and victim age. Findings suggest larger vehicles are involved in pedestrian and pedal-cyclist crashes with more severe injuries that result in higher hospital charges. Blacks are also found to be overrepresented as pedestrian and pedal-cyclist crash victims.

Underreported Pedestrian Crashes in Disadvantaged Communities

Communities with high rates of pedestrians struck by motor vehicles may miss out on mitigation resources and suffer worse medical outcomes if crashes there go unreported to police. Using hospital records of pedestrians treated for injuries sustained by a motor vehicle that were not able to be linked with a corresponding police report, this paper investigates the places, people, and communities in Illinois where struck pedestrians are most likely to go unreported. We find that the incidence of unreported struck pedestrians was not randomly distributed. Blacks struck by a motor vehicle were disproportionately likely to go unreported to police. Zip codes with the most unreported crashes per capita on average had double the poverty rate and 2.6 times the carless household rate as the rest of Illinois. Struck pedestrians diagnosed at the hospital with an intoxicating substance went unreported to police nearly 70% of the time. Generally, more severe head and thorax injuries were more likely to be reported. Struck pedestrians outside of Cook County averaged a 60% discordance rate, those within Cook County averaged a discordance rate of about 50%. Struck pedestrian cases reported to police averaged emergency department charges of about $2,500 more than unreported cases. Recommendations are made for community outreach to stress the importance of reporting incidents to police, along with adjusting case count numbers in police records using hospital data.

Motorist, Pedestrian & Cyclist Crash Data Related to COVID

The race/ethnicity and gender of motor vehicle crash victims during the 2020 Illinois stay at home order are compared to the previous four years. The median poverty rate of crash victims are compared across the five years of 2016-20, and is strongly associated with Black males and females. Several contributing crash factors like speed, distracted driving, seat belt use, and intoxication are also compared. Within race/ethnicity females significantly decreased their proportion of crash involvement while males significantly increased theirs. An interrupted time series analysis and a segmented binary logistic regression are used in conjunction with a
presentation of summary statistics.

Opioid Impairment


Opioid addiction has been a disruptive and destructive force loosed upon American lives for years now. Yet instead of ameliorating new data show 2020 was the worst year on record, with a 30% increase in drug overdose deaths (CDC, 2021). Early 2021 saw Congress allocate $1.5 billion to battle the American opioid epidemic. Still, the toll of opioid impairment while behind the wheel of a motor vehicle is not yet well understood. Funded by a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the Illinois Department of Public Health in collaboration with the Illinois Department of Transportation and the University of Illinois Springfield successfully linked Illinois crash and hospital records for the years 2016 through 2018. Some 213,321 linked records were used to investigate the effects of opioid impairment on crash injury severity and resulting hospital charges.

Social Media Posts

Social media posts allow information to be shared with the public about topics related to pedestrian, motorist, and cyclist safety. These social media outreach efforts provide important tidbits of information for the community.